It all began back in 1866 when Lord and Lady Ailesbury offered the building known as the old Training Institution at the top of Forest Hill for a Hospital.

And so Savernake Hospital in Marlborough was born with this mission statement:

“This hospital is established for the relief of sufferers from disease or accident as In or Out Patients and shall be managed by a committee”.

The first Matron was Jane Berry whose annual salary was £25 + free board and lodging and the first nurse was Elizabeth Bristol. Also employed were a cook, a gardener and a porter.

There was also a hospital donkey, crucial to life in the hospital – it drew water

from the well, pulled the cart to Marlborough to collect medicines and also seems to have

transported nurses. It makes a frequent appearances in the history of the Hospital, There are several mentions but local historians from the Friends of Savernake Hospital say they have never discovered its’ name.

That said, it seems the donkey was well loved, and very useful with a report in 1899 saying hat water was winched up fron the 250 foot well by donkey power. Somebody gifted it some shoes in 1901, and the history archives note, with some clear affection, once the water was connected to the town mains in 1903:

“There is one being who would, I feel sure, join very heartily in the note of thanks

for having the water laid on at the hospital and that is the old hospital donkey!”

As we see in the photograph – the donkey continued to be used to pull the cart, although

he was retired some time later.

The cart driver was Buster Cox’s uncle who lived at High Walls in Marlborough – long since demolished to make way for new Road.

There was a wonderful story concerning the nurses going down in the cart to Marlborough, but the donkey refused to walk on at one point. It was opposite the Roebuck Public House….. the usual driver was rather found out – The Roebuck was his stopping place!